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Student Affairs restructure adds more voice to student issues

Student Affairs restructure adds more voice to student issues
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Two weeks ago, Dr. Patricia Helton (above), the regional vice chancellor of Student Affairs, reorganized the Student Affairs Department.


These changes, implemented Feb. 20, were meant to better facilitate the administration’s discussions over issues affecting students.

The restructure appointed various members of the administration to positions that now report directly to Helton.

One result of the restructure was the departure of Matt Morrin, the director of Student Life & Engagement. Dwayne Isaacs has taken over as interim director.

The main reason for the restructure, Helton said, was to get better feedback from organizations like housing and residence life, the department of Student Life & Engagement and Campus Recreation that she oversees.

“A component of the change is putting together people on my team and the people I think should be at the table,” said Helton.

Top administrators of the organizations within the Student Affairs Department meet weekly at Student Affairs Leadership Team meetings. The restructure includes new administrators in those meetings.

Student leaders do not participate in the Student Affairs Leadership Team meetings.

“We discuss anything that might impact students, especially outside of the classroom,” said Helton. The group recently discussed updates on the new housing project and how to make the campus a more inclusive environment.

One of the newcomers to the weekly Student Affairs meetings is Lesa Shouse, who had her title changed to associate director of the Career Center as part of the Student Affairs restructure.

Lesa Shouse’s title changed to associate director of the Career Center as part of the restructure. With the title change, she now attends the weekly Student Affairs meetings.

Previously, Shouse reported to Dr. Diane McKinstry, the director of Student Achievement. The recent changes dissolved the Student Achievement Department and appointed McKinstry to a new position as director of assessment and special projects.

According to an internal memo sent Feb. 16, McKinstry’s job will be to “provide leadership, oversight, and direction of assessment efforts within Student Affairs.”

Shouse said that the only difference in her new title is that she’ll now be able to contribute to the weekly meetings with other administrators. Her inclusion in the meetings will allow her to create better relationships across campus.

“As a member of the Student Affairs Leadership Team, I’m able to build relationships further and create new collaborations and have a good understanding of everything that’s happening within the division,” said Shouse.

Helton says that adding more voices to the weekly meetings will give her a better idea of what students at USF St. Petersburg need, especially as the group works on its strategic plan for Student Affairs.

“I think that we have a few more members to help inform,” said Helton. “We’re in the process of putting together a strategic plan for Student Affairs and now we have more voices at the table to help inform us about what’s important to students.”

Helton, who began her position at USFSP in July, said that the reorganization of Student Affairs was also about getting together the team of departments she’s used to overseeing from previous administration positions.

“I’ve been in higher education for 30 years, so I’m used to certain areas being a part of my team. I came from the University of Denver and every campus is a little different,” said Helton. “For example, when I was there I had Academic Advising under me. Here, I don’t. There, I didn’t have financial aid under me. Here, I do.”

Over the past eight months, Helton said that she’s been getting to know the various departments in order to determine who the main movers and shakers are.

“One of the things I first did when I came here was meet individually with each leader in the Student Affairs Department to get a feel for the culture and climate here. By getting to know the campus, I came up with the team,” said Helton.

After the restructure, the Student Affairs Department that reports to Helton comprise of housing and residence life, the Career Center, Campus Recreation, the Wellness Center, the department of Student Life & Engagement, Financial Aid and Veterans Services.

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